Significant revisions to New York’s maintenance laws start taking effect this month. These revisions affect how courts will calculate temporary and post-divorce maintenance. They may have a major impact on New York divorces.
New York’s new maintenance law is the product of the efforts of the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee, which reports to New York’s Chief Administrative Judge. The law is the culmination of a five year review of New York’s divorce and maintenance laws. When New York adopted no-fault grounds for divorce in 2010, the legislature could not agree on revisions to the maintenance laws. Five years later, they finally have.
The bill was approved on June 15 by a 146-1 vote in the Assembly. On June 24 the State Senate passed the bill 60-0. The Governor finally got around to signing it into law on September 25.
The new maintenance law amends section 236 of the Domestic Relations Law. It includes a formula for the calculation of post-divorce maintenance. It contains guidelines for the duration of post-divorce maintenance. It contains formulas for determining maintenance when there is child support also being paid.
The new maintenance law gives Judges the discretion to deviate from the guidelines and the amounts determined by the new formulas if such would be “unjust” or “inappropriate.” This discretion is important because it will allow judges to take into account the local cost of living as well as other factors that vary across the state. A fair maintenance award in New York City may not be fair upstate and vice versa.
The down-side of this is that the new maintenance law may not have the impact that its proponents hope it will. The temporary maintenance law adopted in 2010 had similar provisions to allow judges to deviate from its provisions. Many judges did, and the law was applied somewhat inconsistently.
The portions of the new law that apply to temporary maintenance will take effect October 26. The new post-divorce maintenance provisions go into effect on January 25.